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Arrest of high-profile officials proof of sincere anti-graft effort — gov’t

Ghunaimat criticises rioters protesting detention of relatives

By Rana Husseini - Jan 24,2019 - Last updated at Jan 24,2019

AMMAN — Minister of State for Media Affairs Jumana Ghunaimat on Thursday said the recent detentions in connection with the so-called “tobacco case” hold proof of the government’s commitment and seriousness in combating corruption.

Ghunaimat, who was speaking at a press conference at the Prime Ministry, added that “this resembles a true reflection of what His Majesty King Abdullah reiterated repeatedly regarding fighting corruption in Jordan”.

The minister’s remarks came a day following riots in Irbid's Eidoun district late Wednesday to protest against the detention of their relative retired Maj. Gen. Wadah Hmoud, a former director of the Jordan Customs Department (JCD) in connection to the tobacco case.

Dozens of people blocked roads and burned tyres shortly after news surfaced that Hmoud and other top officials were ordered detained by the State Security Court’s prosecution office.

The protesters were chanting slogans demanding the release of the former JCD chief, who was sacked days after the tobacco case was exposed to the public eye.

“Yesterday we witnessed some reactions that were based on the investigation results. If we want to convict people for corruption there will be suspects arrested and they could be our relatives or loved ones,” Ghunaimat said.

The minister added: “Such acts contradict the demands by many who are constantly calling to fight corruption in Jordan.”

“The society needs to support the relevant authorities in combating corruption and, at the same time, respect the rule of law and the judiciary’s independence and decisions,” Ghunaimat stressed.

Other officials who were arrested on Wednesday in addition to Hmoud included former water minister, Musa Oweis, Lt. Gen. Salem Khasawneh and Lt. Gen. Wael Smadi from the JCD, former adviser Wahab Awamleh and free trade zone official Muhieldin Ghitan.  

After his extradition from Turkey last month, the prime suspect in tobacco case, Awni Mutee was ordered detained by the SSC prosecutor following a questioning of the defendant, during which Mutee “disclosed important information and details regarding the case” that the prosecutor found worthy of follow-up and further investigation.

Mutee is a Jordanian businessman who reportedly fled the country to Lebanon in July, one day ahead of a crackdown on an alleged illegal tobacco manufacturing and smuggling factory.

He was wanted on six charges, including carrying out acts that endanger public safety and security and carrying out acts that would change the country’s economic entity or endanger the society’s basic conditions, according to the Interpol Red Notice.

Ghunaimat said that investigations by the judiciary were ongoing and that the government “does not in anyway interfere in the judiciary”.

“The tobacco trial will be public and we need to respect all the decisions taken by judicial authorities,” the minister said.

She added: “The tobacco trial is only the beginning of many other corruption cases that will see legal action in the near future.”

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